One of our favorite features of Windows 8 is that you can start searching from the Start screen by typing on the keyboard. Whether you’re looking for an app, a file, a song or a folder, the new Metro-style search feature has you covered. By default, Windows 8 will display app search results first, but in the right column, you can click again on any number of options to drill down. You can pull up results from settings and files with a click, or search within apps, such as Internet Explorer for a Web search, or the Music app for a particular artist.
Windows 8 also lets you search within an app while you have it open. Just open the Charms menu and tap search.
The Spotlight functionality in Mountain Lion works the same as it did before. You click the looking glass icon in the top right corner to search. Almost instantly, the OS returns results in multiple categories, including Documents, Folders, Events, Web pages, Music and Web Searches.
Where Lion does Windows 8 one better is that you can preview your search results by hovering over them using the Quick Look feature. Spotlight also lets you drag results right out of this menu and drop them into another app. For instance, you can drag and drop a photo onto the Mail icon in the dock to send a message with that attachment pre-populated.
Windows 8 lets you start searching faster, but Mountain Lion makes it easier to sort through your results without multiple clicks, and you can do more with those results with less effort.
Microsoft’s OS tightly integrates with the cloud, starting with your Microsoft account. Once you’ve set up a Windows 8 PC, your settings, desktop background and connections to services such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are attached to your account. So when you sign in to another PC, your personalized Windows 8 experience travels with you. This includes your contacts, which reside in the People app.
With SkyDrive offering 7GB of free storage, you can easily store files in the cloud and access them from your Windows 8 PC, Windows Phone, Mac or iOS device — or any Web-connected device. Third-party apps will also integrate with SkyDrive through Microsoft’s Live SDK.
iCloud plays a critical role in bridging Mountain Lion with iOS, which is evident in such new OS X apps as Notes and Reminders. When you save a note, for example, it will automatically sync with your iPad or iPhone. All you need to do is sign in with your Apple ID to keep everything from mail and contacts to documents up to date across your devices.
iCloud continues to wirelessly sync your media between the desktop and iOS devices, so that if you buy a TV show on your iPad, your Mac can automatically download that episode. Photo Stream lets you automatically upload photos from your iPhone or iPad to the cloud for easy access from your Mac.
Unlike Windows 8 and Windows Phone, Mountain Lion doesn’t automatically set up accounts you’ve already established on your iOS device. And iCloud works only with Apple devices.
Mountain Lion makes productivity more seamless with Documents in the Cloud. When you launch an app such as Pages, you’ll see a Document Library view that lets you toggle between what’s stored in iCloud and what’s on your Mac. This feature will integrate with Apple’s iWork apps, and a developer API will let third-party developers participate, too.
Microsoft gives you more storage with SkyDrive than you get with iCloud (7GB versus 5GB), you can sync files with non- Microsoft devices and you can easily take your settings with you to another PC.